Starting over
January 10, 2013 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Anybody have any experience with needing to come to a fresh start?

I am blessed with an abundance of things, but this last year has been tough. I still have a roof over my head, but I had to move back in with my parents at the age of 37. Not exactly what somebody my age wants to be doing, but will out of necessity. I recently finished graduate school about a month ago. I finished with a degree in counseling psychology. It's kind of ironic, since I am supposed to have solutions for other people, but I can't even get my own life together.

I don't want to have a pity party, but I can say that I have made more errors than most along the way. Everyone tells me that failures are learning experiences. That might be true, but they also are a reflection of how you are doing in the world.

I'm not sure how the rest of my life is going to pan out. I would love to say that I'm going to become a great therapist, but I'm not even sure whether I should go down that path. How can I give others advice about anxiety and depression when I have had my own fair share of that throughout my life?

I am an expert on making something simple, complicated. I'm not sure what else to share with everyone? My life is a mess and the only one that I can blame is myself.

If there is anyone out there who has had to come to a clean start from the way that they were living their lives, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Right now, I feel discouraged and that I am losing perspective. The truth is that I'm a mess.

Any input would be greatly appreciated concerning starting your life over again.
posted by nidora to Human Relations (19 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
You saw through a commitment to counseling psychology, you should at least give it a fair try. You are someone who has suffered these things firsthand, and is struggling with the experience - perhaps this will assist you rather than disqualify you?

Regardless, work towards getting some kind of job/income. Yup, Captain Obvious, sorry about that, but I think you might be underestimating how different you'll feel once you have financial options and independence (and some disposable income!).

I don't know the details, but from what you wrote, that one simple thing - more income - sounds like it could be a silver bullet that single-handedly takes care of a whole lot of the things you're beating yourself up over.

(I had a rough patch that might be somewhat similar. Most people end up questioning themselves when the rough patch drags on long enough. Once the rough times are gone, a whole lot of other stuff clears up in sequence)
posted by anonymisc at 4:45 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

A couple of things:
* Therapists don't have to be perfect to help other people. I don't see it as a profession that's intended to have answers to every question, including your own. That being said, it sounds some therapy might be helpful to you.
* Try to focus on how to move forward, rather than looking back at your past. Everyone has made mistakes, some major. Blaming yourself can't possibly help. You can't go back. What can you do from today on to make things better for yourself?

Lots of us have been where you are and wish you the best. We've seen things get better, and so can you.
posted by cnc at 4:55 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I finished graduate school and moved back with my parents when I was 39. There was a lot of upheaval because I had been in Europe, broken up with my boyfriend and moved back to the States, as there weren't many options for work in my field in the city in which we lived. So many changes at once. So, what was supposed to be an exciting time was indeed very dark. I felt like a failure but I have no idea why. I remember when I finished my undergraduate degree I also felt very depressed. I didn't think I was smart enough after all that education, in part, but mostly I just felt sad that I was still ME after accomplishing something so difficult. Finishing a degree is a huge milestone. I stared out the window a lot, at this one tree in particular. I needed to return to being in the moment and the tree helped me do that. This was 10 years ago and I've been working in my field ever since, mostly good times but lots of bad times thrown in. That's just life. There's a really good chance you will be a great therapist, just give it a try. Big hugs.
posted by waving at 4:56 PM on January 10, 2013

I did this. I completely started over after a breakup. I went back to school. I had a whole different group of friends. I changed my life in just about every way possible.

And it's been great.

You can do this. You really can.
posted by 3491again at 4:59 PM on January 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

Please have compassion for yourself. Life involves periods of momentous triumph but also times when you will feel lost and yes, like a failure.

Pretend for a second that you married yourself and are vowed to love yourself through sickness and health. Well, aren't there periods like that in every life? Do you have to be a winner every moment of the day?

Yes, I totally believe that you can still make contributions to others' lives even if you are not in perfect shape.
posted by kettleoffish at 5:07 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Several times, really. Breakups, lost jobs, the divorce was the biggie. I endorse having an individual therapist who can help you see things from the outside. Also, recognize your allies: turns out I've had friends, family, my attorney, the child advocate, colleagues, all pulling for me really hard. Once I learned to ask for help, everything changed.
posted by j_curiouser at 5:10 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The reason you live at your parent's house is because you went to graduate school, presumably. So the economic hardship you face is as result of an achievement. If you enjoy the achievement, you also will enjoy the hardship.

It is not ironic that you cannot sort your own life out. Your life is sorted out. You have a new career. You are just getting started. In fact, you already have started over – you did so a long time ago – you are just now realising it perhaps.

I don't want to have a pity party

Then don't.

They also are a reflection of how you are doing in the world.

Bollocks. That is what you are choosing the meaning to be. Nothing has any meaning inherently. There is no reality. For every person that believes economic wealth is the end all be all fighting city traffic every day, there is a very happy person of humble means doing the backstroke in crystal clear water.

The only person you have to please in life is yourself. If you are displeased at the moment, start with owning it. Say out loud, "I am displeased with my life," and be done with it. But don't act like the world is judging you, because it's not.

I'm not sure how the rest of my life is going to pan out.

You are going to age and eventually pass. Something will happen in between now and then.

I would love to say that I'm going to become a great therapist, but I'm not even sure whether I should go down that path. How can I give others advice about anxiety and depression when I have had my own fair share of that throughout my life?

Because you understand it first-hand. Because for you, it is not factual learning. It is not out there. It is in here. You can actually relate. You know the discomfort of distress yourself, and therefore you can bond with your patients on an emotional level, not a rational one.

My life is a mess and the only one that I can blame is myself.

That's a cognitive distortion called overgeneralisation. Go back to your CBT learnings. Just because you are a therapist does not mean you are also not a person. It's okay to have problems. But get more specific. You live with your parents. You're not where you want to be in life. You're doubting your capabilities.

Your life is not a mess. There are very specific emotions going on that you must recognise, understand, and use to prioritise your decisions. "My life is a mess" does not help. "I want to leave my parents house within six months because I am uncomfortable there" does.

I have started over three times. The first time, it was challenging my beliefs and asking strangers and acquaintances for help. With that lesson being learnt, the second time, it was dealing with a few demons, and learning to truly live life on my own terms, to my own satisfaction.

With those lessons being learnt (the lessons compound), the last time it was gratitude. And that has been the greatest lesson of them all. You have so much to be grateful for right now, and so much that you can be grateful for if you really look.

Life is not built by salary bonuses and holidays, but by the joke of a bus driver. The smile of an older person when you smile at them. A child making faces at you from a car seat. A day spent with your mother or father. A warm ray of sunshine in the cold of winter. The sound of the nib of a fine fountain pen on fine paper. That scratch and the resulting letter.

That feeling of being stuck probably comes from overgeneralisation. "I want to sort my life out" versus "I am going to send 10 resumes today." or "I don't want to live with my parents. I suck." versus "Whilst I am happy to be here because they won't be around forever, I cannot wait to have my own place again."

So I guess my advice is 1) take new chances, 2) leave things that don't work behind, 3) be grateful for what you have, no matter how small.
posted by nickrussell at 5:44 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think you may be on the journey called life which is nothing but false starts, regrouping, fear, courage, mystery, big errors, small successes, confusion, angst, and moments of peace right in the middle. No one gets it right and no one gets it completely wrong. Sometimes the best one can do is get up tomorrow, provided you sleep at all tonight, and for that everyone deserves an oscar for "best performance by a human being." From your description you are looking at one step in your journey rather than the whole trip. So get up tomorrow and move forward without hanging on to that single step that was yesterday. Hold your head up, take a deep breath and step out into tomorrow.
posted by Xurando at 6:32 PM on January 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

My fresh start was not a result of my own decisions but I definitely contributed to the problem that started the process. After all of the big changes, I felt cut to the bone and so incredibly vulnerable. Everything I thought I knew about myself and my partner was demolished and I didn't believe I had any safe harbors. I didn't have a job and was in danger of losing my home at the age of 41 with a six-year-old son wholly dependent on me. There were a few things that I believe made a difference in the immediate and not-so immediate aftermath. First, I talked to to people: professionals, friends, and in some instances, mere acquaintances who showed so much compassion for my position that I was overwhelmed by their kindness. I forced myself to be as truthful about my situation as possible both to myself and others and asked for help even though that was the last thing I wanted to do (I wanted to protect myself, not open myself to potentially more criticism). Also, I read the works of some smart people, in particular, "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron. Lastly, I tried to be as kind to myself as others were to me. Rather than kick myself when I was down, I celebrated the small steps I made toward a better future. Occasionally, it was as small as turning on the computer and putting in a search term that might lead me to a new job (getting a job wasn't just hard for the obvious reasons but because of the emotions associated with "moving on"). I can tell you and I hope you can really hear this, while I'm not happy this happened, I did come out the other end. I'm a profoundly changed person; more honest, more empathetic, more giving, and more involved in the world around me. You are not in a forever situation; rather, you are on a journey. Try to relax, be patient and compassionate with yourself, lean into the curve, and be open to the lessons your current situation is bound to teach you. To paraphrase Chodron, only to the extent that we expose ourselves (albeit sometimes the exposure isn't our choice) over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us. You will soon find out what parts of you are indestructible.
posted by notcomputersavvy06 at 7:16 PM on January 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

A long time ago one of my elementary school teachers said that young people are liberal because they have nothing to lose (or nothing that their parents won't replace for them). Once you get older you worry more about losing what you have and so become more conservative. Please stay with me. That was point #1.

#2- Later I heard a speaker say that the cause of most frustration, anger and depression is unrealistically high expectations. I know I occasionally am surprised at how low I need to make my expectations to achieve peace, but I really would "counsel" you to try that path (both for expectations of others and, what seems most relevant to your question, expectations of yourself).

#3 - Don't forget to factor in opportunity cost. Beating yourself up and over thinking every angle may appear to be "just" and "cautious". But it also is taking your time and energy away from whatever else you could be doing, to get out of your current rut or pit or mine shaft. You need to focus less on what is, and more on what needs to be or could be, both through your own efforts and with the help of others.

#4 - If you can do the above, you can help a lot of people who are also in ruts and pits and mine shafts, paying it forward.
posted by forthright at 7:26 PM on January 10, 2013

When you think something bad about yourself, ask what you would say if a friend thought that about themselves.
posted by kat518 at 7:50 PM on January 10, 2013

Well....I'm 37, with a Masters in Counseling Psychology, and I just moved home too. Hi me! I started out after my masters not as a therapist, but doing admissions for a psych hospital. It required the degree, I got to do some initial diagnosing, gave advice to families calling me about their loved ones, and did the initial assessment for patients. But once I admitted them I didn't have to follow them anymore. It's a great way to practice your skills without stressing about whether or not you are guiding someone down the right life path. It actually fits me better than being a regular therapist.

(I have a messed up wrist so can't type long. But MeMail me and we can chat more).
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:27 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everyone tells me that failures are learning experiences.

Failures are feedback, information, data, nothing more. Whether or not you learn from it? That's up to you. Your answer to that may be connected to this part:

I am an expert on making something simple, complicated.

I've noticed that often when people say something is complicated, what they really mean is they know the right answer but don't want to do it. So they manufacture the complications searching for an easier route. Eventually they do the hard thing anyway or just keep messing up trying avoid it.
posted by trinity8-director at 9:20 PM on January 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes. I'm younger, but not that long ago I quit grad school (was anxious and depressed for several years), with credit cards maxed, student loans unpaid, bad credit and no health insurance to see a therapist. Now that's a failure. You finished your degree, that's really hard and a big success and you should be proud of it!

I moved in with my parents (who are not supportive emotionally) to a city where I didn't have friends, and did nothing for months. Eventually I applied for jobs (not in the field I studied), landed one in the DC suburbs and found a place to live (a tiny room in a group house) once I had a job. Then I was laid off and spent six months on unemployment, depressed, no health insurance, paying for everything but rent on credit. I started doing part-time work for which I was absurdly overqualified at $8/hour, but it got me out of the house and active. I started applying for jobs again and got a pretty decent one that, nevertheless, was a culture change and stressful, and I still lived in a tiny room. But I stuck it out and got promoted and now I live in a nice one-bedroom and make a good salary.

Reading Pema Chodron, Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and other Buddhist things (I mostly read popular stuff) helped me immensely. It helped me learn to be non-judgmental of others and less of myself, more kind and less critical/know-it-all, letting things go, not argumentative. I'm sure another benefit was appreciating people at work and getting along with everyone, and that's part of why I got promoted. I also tried to stop feeling sorry for myself: I could only do what I could do now, I couldn't change the past. And accept (which is not the same as blame) that I chose to go to grad school, and quit, and take out loans, and procrastinate. So I'm going to not be embarrassed anymore. Give yourself a break for a bit, and then start digging yourself out with small steps. Find a job even if it's beneath your abilities and go see friends and go to the public library and get exercise (even walking is OK). Just keep at it and you'll be fine. The experience will give you valuable insight that will help you relate to your patients once you start practicing as a therapist, I bet. Also, this.
posted by citron at 9:42 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ummm, you seem to be having a rare mid-life period to reflect and restart. Mental stuff *is* tough; but I'm not reading any debt problems, health problems, homelessness, hunger, dependent children, absence of family that cares, ... not to lighten your current void or dismiss it; but in time you might look back on what you are experiencing as a ?sabbatical? from life itself so to speak.

I've rebooted with no particular order: health, job, feeding my brain, sunshine, proper diet, and proper 'time off' ... a day of nothingness and wonderment. A learning opportunity and a fresh start.
posted by buzzman at 11:20 PM on January 10, 2013

Thanks for your posts.

I left out the whole money thing because I didn't want to get even more depressed. I have roughly 100k in student loans.i had to cash out all of my 401k's, and I have borrowed a ton of money from family.

I have left out a few other issues as well. I don't think that everyone would be so upbeat if they knew some of the really stupid things that I have done. The thing that I regret the most is that I lost the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with because I wasn't sure about that and I hurt her feelings by not thinking about her feelings before my own.

I can assure everyone that if I were to tell you about some of the stupid things that I have done, that everyone might really believe what an ignoramus I've been.

I'm 38 and have no assets and a huge amount of debt.
posted by nidora at 4:47 AM on January 11, 2013

I was essentially where you were six years ago, except a little younger (equal student loan debt, plus huge credit card debt and 403(b) distribution, moved cities and borrowed/lived with parents, almost right out of grad school, having done some VERY destructive things in my personal life).

What I did was:
1. Exercise religiously
2. Took a job that maybe wasn't a perfect fit but close enough to bide some time and save a little money while I started to feel better
3. Worked on forgiving myself
posted by Pax at 7:17 AM on January 11, 2013

How can I give others advice about anxiety and depression when I have had my own fair share of that throughout my life?

Anxiety and depression are normal human states. Being a therapist does not require that you be super-human. Therapists make mistakes, get depressed, fail, get divorced, whatever - just like normal people. Because they are normal people.

Having said that, therapists all have therapists, which you need.

I can assure everyone that if I were to tell you about some of the stupid things that I have done, that everyone might really believe what an ignoramus I've been.

What is this? So what? Please see a therapist.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:43 AM on January 11, 2013

That's a lot of student loans. I assume you're either making your payments or have already requested a deferral due to financial hardship? And consolidated what you can (if it's practical to do so - the interest rates for this were incredibly low when I did it, that may no longer be the case).

Why not look into public service/nonprofit/teaching jobs (you'll have to research the details of these programs and the type of jobs that qualify) which allow you to have your (federal) loans forgiven after ten years.

If you start moving forward and taking small steps toward improving things, you'll have less time to sit around and think about yourself/blame yourself/etc. And of course if you are currently depressed and anxious get treatment first, that's very important!
posted by citron at 12:02 AM on January 12, 2013

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